St. John’s Abbot Responds to Sexual Abuse Lawsuit


(St. Joseph Newsleader) In a statement released on the St. John’s Abbey website last week, Abbot John Klassen said he and other members of the abbey were “shocked” to hear allegations that former Abbot Timothy Kelly, who died last fall, had possibly been a perpetrator of sexual abuse.

In the statement, Klassen said they had only learned about the charges last week, when a man in New York filed a lawsuit against the abbey. The lawsuit stated the abbey had known about the allegations for months.

“The charges were made for the first time June 7 in a news conference and in media statements,” Klassen said in the statement.

“These are the first allegations that Abbot Kelly violated his vows or was an abuser,” he added. “There were no previous accusations of sexual misconduct against Abbot Kelly.”

Attorney Jeff Anderson released his own statement not long after Klassen’s, and said he was “alarmed and deeply sad” that Klassen and the abbey failed to admit they were privy to the allegations many months ago.

“Contrary to Abbot Klassen’s accusations in his statement,” Anderson said in the release, “we did this only because St. John’s had already been made aware of the charges nearly six months ago and failed to investigate it, respond to it or disclose it.”

Anderson went on to say Klassen received a letter from former abbey monk A.W. Richard Sipe in December, which detailed allegations that Kelly had “sexual relations with several boys at St. Anslem’s church in the Bronx, New York.” A copy of the letter has been made available on Anderson’s website. “An additional unwanted burden was recently thrust at me: namely allegations that Timothy Kelly was sexual with some young men when he was stationed at St. Anselm’s in New York during the 1960s,” Sipe said in the letter to Klassen dated Dec. 15, 2010. “This hits me especially hard.”

Sipe went on to say in the letter that the first man to contact him did so in late November and asserted he was part of a group of boys (numbering between four and 12) that had similar sexual experiences with Kelly as teenagers. He said forces within the group prompted them to search for Kelly on the Internet and come forward about the abuse. “These victims’ accounts are very credible,” Sipe said in the letter. “The details of the place and circumstances ring true.”

Klassen made no reference to receiving a letter from Sipe in his statement and said they “deeply regret that in spite of working closely and cooperatively in recent months with Jeff Anderson, the attorney leading the case against Abbot Kelly, he still chose to first take his charges to the media,” Klassen said. “In all of our many conversations and meetings with Mr. Anderson in recent months, there never was a hint of any issue involving Abbot Kelly.”

Klassen said in the statement they have already begun their review into the allegations. “Our solemn pledge in this and all of our investigations is to do all we can to contribute to the healing of those who have been harmed and also to restore the reputation of those who are falsely accused,” he added.

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Thu, June 16, 2011 by Emilie Thiessen

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Topics: Jeff Anderson, John Klassen, Richard Sipe, Timothy Kelly

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